Skip to main content
6:30 pm
just into us, another victim of the accused serial killer, identified, her name, nancy cox. so far, only 4 of 11 victims have been identified. there's something going on here. we want to know why. nancy cobbs. are their own family members afraid to go to police. are they reluctant to give dna and the coroner's office is reassuring them, if they're frightened, they can goo to their pastor and won't go into a
6:31 pm
database. won't be shared and some are speaking up, like those who knew telacia fortson, last night, her aunt was on the nancy grace show. >> when did you learn your niece is allegedly one of his many, many victims? >> i guess today, about 1, 1:30. it was very hard and we have to keep going and constantly pray for other families and stay strong for the children, she has three small children. >> so sad. joining me now to talk about this, dwayne fortson, the mother of -- brother, excuse me, identified as one of the victims. firstoff, our condolence, must be such a difficult time, i know a memorial is going on right
6:32 pm
now. >> caller: yes. >> when was she last seen? >> caller: she was last seen in june and one of our friends saw her in july and the last we heard from her. >> as this was playing out, was this something you feared or were you totally caught off guard when your sister was mentioned and connected with this guy? >> caller: totally caught off guard. my sister had a brain and smart young woman, we never thought this. >> tell us about your sister, mom, three kids? >> caller: yes. >> how was her life going? sounds like she was trying to get her life back together. >> caller: she was trying to get her life back together. rehab. inspectors spent a lot of money on her children and time with them. she got caught, i guess, in one of her weak moments. what can we say? everybody have a weak moment, i guess he caught her at hers and that's what happened. >> that seems to be what's going
6:33 pm
on here, dwayne. >> caller: she was a very strong, very loving individual, she very much was. >> did she live -- or did she live near the area of anthony sowell's home, dwayne? >> caller: the baby's father did. >> that's what might have brought her to that area? >> caller: i guess so. she's 30 some years old. i live with my wife and everything and she have her own life and i hear from her every now and then. that's why i never figured her being missing because i very seldom see her anyway. >> let's bring in like, as we walk through this, the investigation, i'm sure, continuing. that has to be painstaking at this point. they have to be continuing to rip apart anthony sowell's home for evidence and possibly other bodies. >> they had the fire department there in, tearing through the
6:34 pm
walls, looking for any kind of evidence because they found all these bodies and a skull. there's still a dozen people missing from that community. there's a mistrust of -- the people don't trust the establishment, they don't trust the police. it's vital that people -- if you have someone in your family that's missing, they need to give a dna sample. i'm sure the reason they don't want to do that is because of their distrust, some of their people, they may be wanted. if you have nothing to hide, give your dna, it will help these families who are missing these people have closure in their life. there are people out there missing and don't know where they are and could be involved in this case. >> let's go back to dwayne fortson, his sister identified as one of the victims, as we look into this case and find out that this guy committed a brutal crime in 1989, served 15 years. from what we're gathering, not long after he's let out of
6:35 pm
prison, he's right back to his criminal ways and worse. how is your family processing tha that? >> that's the cleveland system. these criminals get -- go do their crime and the system let them right back out. like i said, this situation, hi wasn't monitored. for the health department say they been in his house and for the police to say they went and checked on him because he's a sexual predator, i can't see it adding up. i haven't seen nothing in life yet that smells like death. if you can't decipher death from a roll of sausage, you have another thing coming. they cover up something for the city of cleveland, police, judicial system, somebody's covering up something. i don't feel it's right for all these young ladies to lose their life and nobody did nothing, not even investigate it. >> you picked up on a good point. a lot of people talked about it. said that smell was there for three or four years, thanks for
6:36 pm
taking the time. our condolences to you and your family. stay strong. >> caller: thank you very much. coming up, a missouri woman accused of cutting in line at wal-mart, now, she's facing up to 15 years. how's that? the weekly feature, what matters?
6:37 pm
6:38 pm
facing 15 years in prison
6:39 pm
for cutting in line at a wal-mart. it sounds harsh but that's how the case against heather ellis is playing out. she jumped the line at wal-mart. that led to an argument. police were called in, say ellis assaulted them but she denies that and refuses to sign a plea agreemen agreement. >> we tried to resolve this thing early on. there was no indication of any desire to do so. >> ellis was charged with trespassing, disturbing the peace and two felony counts of assaulting an officer. the case has gotten national attention. now, joining us, the professor from syracuse university planning a rally later this month. what was your first reaction when you became aware of this story that heather was facing charges for something that stemmed from her cutting in line at wal-mart. what was your first reaction? >> i didn't believe it. i said, that's impossible.
6:40 pm
there's got to be more to it. tell me more about this young lady. my assistant's children, justice and journey were the ones that brought this to our attention and why we're calling it journey to justice out of respect for the kids. i did my research. once i dug into it. i thought about my own background, my father's been in law enforcement 30 years. i have a lot of respect for good police officers. once i dug deeper, i said, something's wrong here. there seems to be abuse of authority. you look at heather ellis' record, there is nothing in her past that indicates she's capable of this kind of behavior, a college student on the way to medical school a daughter of a pastor, doesn't have any criminal record. the idea she's facing these sorts of charges over an incident of this magnitude is absolutely astonishing. >> we do have a statement from the prosecutor. says we tried to resolve this early on.
6:41 pm
there was no indication of any desire to do so. you know the family. being devil's advocate, why won't she sign something and make it go away? >> because one of the problems with our justice system, which is why i consider heather's case to be the broader beginning of a search. we have thousands of people who go to prison every year for crimes they did not commit primarily because they sign plea bargains offered backed by an implicit threat, if you don't sign, you will get a long time in prison. i stand by her decision not to sign it. when you sign it, you're waiving your right to a jury trial and can't sue the police for false arrest. heather did what any good conscientious person should, do i didn't do this and i'm not going to sign this. the idea that the prosecutor sa
6:42 pm
says you sign this and you will admit to something you didn't do and that should concern all of news when the incident involving miss ellis occurred we asked local police to intervene. you'll have to direct any questions about the incident and resulting investigation to them. somehow the ku klux klan has become involved now. what that about. >> effectively the kkk has threatened the family and said if you raise too much of a st g stink, we will respond in a scary way. what's more frightening, that says something about missouri, the threats were delivered by a police officer in uniform i. don't have noticing my knowledge that says he went to investigate where the threat came from or went to prosecute the threat as a hate crime, which is what this is. the truth, this is a very complex case. the people we asked to come for the rally, we let them know, this is not a safe place,
6:43 pm
especially for people of color. it's my greatest hope we can get in and out safely while standing up for justice. this is not a black issue, a civil liberties issue all americans should be concerned about. >> thank you very much, mr. watkins for talking about this. no plea deal. looks like they will be headed to trial. check out the november issue of "essence" magazine for what matters. coming up, rihanna speaking out about her violent relationship with chris brown, telling abc's "good morning america" why she took him back and why she decided to leave.
6:44 pm
6:45 pm
hi. i'm mary j. blige.
6:46 pm
i have the honor of performing at a tribute that recognizes everyday people who change the world. as president of forum, i'm dedicating myself to help women reach their full potential in life. now more than ever, the world needs heroes. i am thrilled to help cnn introduce this year's top 10 honorees. >> how can i turn my back and walk away and leave you right here? i can't. because i know you wouldn't turn your back and leave me. >> nationwide, veterans are neglects, home l unacceptable. >> what branch of service? >> army. >> army. so was i. we are still brothers in arms. so, no man left behind. >> my name is roy foster. my mission is to help and empower homeless veterans. if you're going to work for sobriety, you have to change. we provide service for veterans only, a safe, clean place to live, all the meals and the
6:47 pm
camaraderie is that internal glue. tell him one of his brothers in arms came out looking for him and let them know we will be back. they are the best and deserve the best. what i do, i love it. i love it. >> an emotional rihanna recounting the night she was brutally beaten by her ex-boyfriend, chris brown. it's her first interview since the attack and she is really opening up. confirming that chris brown had no soul in his eye, she talks about the relationship a violent obsession, yet she went back to him. >> the more in love wie became, the more dangerous we became for each other, equally as dangerous because there's a bit of an obsessio obsession. >> rihanna says taking him back
6:48 pm
was a big mistake. now, she wants to send a message to young girls to get out of these abusive relationships. guess who's appearing right before her appearance tonight? chris brown. he will upstage her? she's opening up for the first time about this ordeal and he's going to horn in on her message? a bad movement we'll see what the experts have to say. stacey, let's firstoff get back to what rihanna is talking about, falling in love an obsession. how common is that for a young couple like this. >> it's very common for a young couple. they aren't really falling in love. what she's describing what the rest of us call intense passion, makes for great happy times and also really volatile violent times. >> and young people more susceptible to that i would think? not mature enough to handle
6:49 pm
those feelings. >> i think part of it. you get older and wiser and more jaded and less accepting of that. >> let's listen to rihanna talking about what led to this infamous message, a text message from another girl. >> i call him in l.a. he wouldn't-he wouldn't tell the truth. i wouldn't drop it. i wouldn't drop it. i kept saying, i couldn't take that he kept lying to me and he couldn't take that i wouldn't drop it. >> stacey, as you listen to that, for young people, jealousy a text from somebody else, how does that turn into this brutal beating? >> that isn't really what caused it. that's what she thinks caused it, that's the excuse. what we're looking at is people who have apews in abuse in thei, the trigger gets set and they
6:50 pm
go. i think that's what happened, they got explosive. also, she talks about seeing that look in his eyes, it's because he really compartmentalized and went back to that raging it's because he really compartmentalized and went back to sort of that raging childhood experience. >> all right. let's bring in jim. rihanna admits they had a volatile relationship. do we know anything about past incidents? blow-ups in the past? >> we do from the court documents that there were i believe two incidents not as bad as this. i don't want you to think this was a text from somebody and she got jealous. i think what the allegation was and what we got from the court records, i believe it was a text from someone he was allegedly seeing. she caught him in a lie and she wouldn't drop it and it simply escalated. it wasn't just a text from a random friend. >> well put, jim. good perspective there. stacy, when we talk about this and parents are watching and
6:51 pm
maybe their child is involved in a relationship. is it more difficult for a young person to realize, this is bad, i've got to get out? >> i read an interesting statistic the other day. i read it takes the average woman 11 assaults before she gets out. so, what that says to me, young or old, people are staying too long when they're getting beaten up and once it starts f someone can do it one time, they can do it again. people need to get out immediately. >> 11. why, stacy? >> you know, you know, first of all, the whole cycle of violence where after they beat you up they apologize and send you flowers and tell you how amazing you are and the other big piece is women tend to blame themselves. just like rihanna is saying i wouldn't stop relenting. a lot of people are persistent and don't get hit. >> 1-877-tell-hln is the number. 8
6:52 pm
6:53 pm
6:54 pm
6:55 pm
6:56 pm
6:57 pm
6:58 pm
6:59 pm
7:00 pm
tonight an "issues "special presentation. cases that changed america. for the next hour i'll examine high profile trials that for better or for worse forever altered america's justice system. from the spectacle of the michael jackson molestation trial, where he was found not guilty on all counts. the media circus outside the courtroom, as bizarre as the twists and turns on the witness stand. i'll analyze how celebrity complicates cases in this 24/7 news culture and whether a different standard of justice applies to stars. to trials that create celebrity. scott peterson killed his pregnant wife but before he was
7:01 pm
sentenced to death in 2006, he became a pop culture phenomenon. this strange case showed us that a horrific crime in anytown usa can grip the entire nation. plus, we'll look at the most infamous celebrity trial of them all, o.j. simpson's double murder trial. all the evidence pointed to simpson in the double murder of his ex-wife nicole, and her friend ron goldman. but o.j. was amazingly acquitted. the case ushered in the era of legal television, key players becoming stars in their own right. and dream team attorneys. and as dna evidence made its bigtime debut, americans learned just how flawed our justice system was, and still is. this "issues" special presentation starts now. tonight an "issues" special presentation.
7:02 pm
cases that changed america. three unique cases, one similar result. they altered the way we view our justice system forever. the spectacular and bizarre atmosphere surrounding the michael jackson molestation trial is where i want to begin tonight. prosecutors charged jackson with molesting a 13-year-old boy. they claimed the king of pop gave the boy alcohol, or jesus juice, as he called it, and conspired to hold him and his family against their will. he was found not guilty on all charges. after the stunning verdict, many said jackson's celebrity status was a huge factor in this case. joining me now, my incredible expert panel. also dear friends all, diane dimond, journalist and syndicated columnist whose pieces can be seen at her website, she's also the author of "be careful who you love, inside the michael jackson case." and aphrodite jones, author of "michael jackson conspiracy."
7:03 pm
plus lisa bloom, an anchor on the legal network in session. lisa, what do you believe are the biggest lessons we can learn from the michael jackson trial? >> i think there's no question that his celebrity status and what led to his acquittal in part. because we know from some of the jurors who were interviewed afterwards that back in the jury room during the deliberations some of the jurors said, we can't convict my michael. not my michael. my michael could not have done this. you know, we have celebrity culture in this country that's almost like royalty. there are certain people who are above the law, and i think in the michael jackson case, the celebrity status is what put it over the top. yes there were other factors, but none as big as the celebrity factor. >> but, aphrodite jones, i have to say i sat there along with you and diane ands conspiracy aspect of this case made my head explode. i couldn't make head or tails of it. they're keeping the whole family hostage. meanwhile they're getting waxes and going on shopping sprees.
7:04 pm
it was convoluted and some said it just didn't make sense. >> it did not make sense. first of all to charge michael jackson with conspiracy, to hold a family hostage when, in fact, they were using his money and his limos and his rolls-royces to travel around. is bizarre. the idea that i disagree with lisa in that that the jury perhaps had some fascination certainly with michael's celebrity status. but remember, these people were looking at evidence that for all intents and purposes showed us at the end of the day that the accuser's family seemed to take the playbook from jordi chandler's lawsuit, and follow suit. there really was conflicting testimony from the key witnesses, that's the accuser and his brother there really was no absolute evidence that jackson did ply anybody with alcohol. >> i want to bring it down to what we're learning from this case, diane dimond you covered it extensively. you wrote about it in your book. where did the prosecution go wrong? >> i think they made it too
7:05 pm
complicated. i completely agree with you. you and i sat in that courtroom along with aphrodite and a whole lot of other reporters and there were times that we'd look at each other and go, huh? why are they spending so much time on the phone bills? why did they make this seemingly simple story, this kid was allegedly molested by this man into such a complicated thing i never could figure it out. i think that is one reason he was acquitted. >> jane, one very important point to respond to aphrodite, throughout the trial, before the trial, after the trial, everybody said, this 13-year-old accuser is in it for the money. >> right. >> unlike jordi chandler, the previous child, he never filed a civil suit before, during, and now even years afterwards. he has never asked for one time. and that was proven to be completely false. >> all right. let's face it -- >> you know something, jane, wait a minute. >> okay, let me move on. there's so much to cover here. the jackson case, as we all know, we were there, a circus often turning a serious child
7:06 pm
molestation case into what felt like a las vegas act with jackson as the ringmaster. i'm sure you remember jackson hopping on the roof of his suv, we're going to see it over and over today. playing to the crowd. looking for all the world like he was on stage at madison square garden. there he is. i was there at that moment. it was crazy. that was -- >> do you remember that, jane? that was on arraignment day when you're very seriously going into court to hear the charges against you and that's what he did. >> absolutely. and not to be outdone, his own family got in on the theatrics. i'm sure you remember this guys. they rived at the trial all dressed in matching white outfits. as a sign of solidarity. now as i watched this, covering the case in the courtroom along with you guys, it seemed to me that michael jackson was fighting back in a way that no defendant had ever done before. using psychology and emotion. diane, it was almost that he was taking the skills that he learned onstage, and applying it to the legal arena.
7:07 pm
>> his father made sure that he was a showman from the age of, what, 6 years old? to me jumping on the suv was, i was agape at that. but it was pajama drama day that really did it for me. everybody remembers michael jackson was late for court, there was an arrest warrant issued for him that day. he was at a hospital complaining of back pain and he comes to court in his pajamas, but what nobody ever mentions is that's the day that the young boy was going to spend his first full day on the stand testifying to these very, very serious charges. what did the jury do, jane? you saw it. aphrodite, you saw it, the jury was transfixed on michael jackson sitting five feet away from them in his pajamas looking like he was in pain and dishevelled. >> diane, we saw that. but remember from the waist up, you only saw jackson in his jacket, blazer. >> he had on blue pajamas with clouds on them. >> the blue pajama bottoms.
7:08 pm
you can see them right there. >> i was told by a jury foreman that he honestly did not know those were pajamas until after the fact. >> whatever. his team could have brought him some trousers. >> you know who could see was the accuser. i'm sure it was distracting to him. and part of what he testified about was part of the molestation was afterwards michael jackson asked him to put on his pajama pants. >> bingo. >> that was bizarre. and clearly bingo. but if jackson was trying to detract from that testimony of pajamas don't you think he wouldn't have worn the pajamas? i just think it was jackson being jackson. not feeling well. not being dishevelled. >> it was a crucial day and it threw the kid off his game. let's face it. i mean, there was no accident there, i don't know. but who knows. who could say for sure? some say it's a lot harder to convict a celebrity of a serious crime. now was the d.a. in this case overconfident? listen to just one of the comments he made during the trial. here it is.
7:09 pm
>> thank you for coming to santa barbara. i hope you all stay and spend lots of money because we need your sales tax to support our offices. >> tom sneddon later apologized for that. but he has more than 30 years of experience in prosecution. he seemed to believe, lisa bloom, this was an open and shut case. there is no open and shut case. >> right. well, i never cared for the comment, come to our community and spend money and we'll get some sales tax. it's a folksy little joke. he clearly was overconfident in the prosecution of his case because he lost the case. he lost the entire case. and i think d.a.'s have learned from this not to make pretrial statements. just try your case in the courtroom. this is something that's educated people across the country. >> there are those who believe michael jackson's celebrity really complicated everything. here's the best example, perhaps, his ex-wife was on the surface a prosecution witness, but when she took the stand she pulled the rug right out from under the prosecution and called michael jackson a loving and caring father, prosecutors were stunned.
7:10 pm
then there was defense witness, one-time child star macaulay culkin. he painted a portrait of jackson as innocent and sincere. his testimony, more compelling than others because he was a child star. the impact of all of this, diane, celebrity on this case. >> you know, there is not a human being on the planet that cannot sit in a courtroom with somebody for 4 1/2 months who is a superstar, an icon and not get to feel sympathy for them. remember, we saw the back of jackson's head. we saw the back of macaulay culkin's head. the jury got to sit right next to macaulay culkin and they got to stare right at michael jackson for 4 1/2 months. that's really heady and powerful stuff, for these people who have been his neighbors all this time, in santa maria, santa barbara county. but have never been that close to him. and now, they were part of his whole sphere. i think that's very powerful stuff. >> i don't disagree with you, diane. i don't disagree with you that
7:11 pm
it was certainly an impactful thing to have the stars in the room and the jackson five sitting behind michael and all the stars that were glittering around the courtroom. but people like jay leno got on that witness stand and told us and told the jury that he heard the accuser call him up from make a wish and that the accuser sounded fishy, i am paraphrasing here. >> you're talking about evidence aphrodite. >> the question is does celebrity taint a jury? and, yes, i think that it can. >> hold that thought, everybody. we've got to go to a break. from jacko to the juice. the most infamous trails of them all. o.j. simpson's double murder trial, but jackson's was rather outramus in its own right. it was a circus of fans outside. so i guess that means jackson was the ringleader of them all.
7:12 pm
7:13 pm
7:14 pm
7:15 pm
it is different because the law in california has changed. and it was changed specifically because of the 1993-94 michael jackson investigation. the law in california at that time provided that a child victim could not be forced to testify in a child molest proceedings without their permission and consent and cooperation. as a result of the michael jackson case, the legislature changed that law, and that is no longer the law in california. >> we are back with an "issues" special presentation. "cases that changed america." my fantastic panel is here. we're looking at the michael jackson molestation trial. first i want to turn to a very special guest. i'm so delighted to have famous criminal defense attorney tom mesereau with me now. thanks so much, tom. tom, of course, was michael jackson's lead attorney for the molestation trial.
7:16 pm
jackson found not guilty on all accounts. how do you believe the trial changed or impacted america and american attitudes towards the law? >> first of all you have to remember that this was a very intelligent jury. we had a retired math teacher with a masters degree in math. we had a retired school principal with a masters degree in counseling. we had a civil engineer. we had the head of a local social services agency, and we had people with military backgrounds. so a very intelligent jury acquitted him, not 10, 14 times. 10 felonies and four lesser included misdemeanors. what that means is this, i think his celebrity status hurt him terribly going into the trial. because you had more media attention directed at this case than any case in history and most of it was negative. i think as we began to destroy their case and show how ridiculous their witnesses were, i think his celebrity status probably began to help him because he looked like a target. i think it proved that our jury system works. that you can direct a lot of negative attention at a
7:17 pm
celebrity. throw an entire d.a.'s office, you know, at him, throw unlimited resources at a celebrity defendant, and still a jury in a conservative town can be very fair. so it showed our system works in the end. >> well, to me, what struck me was the use of videotape in this case. it all started with the martin brashear documentary. then you had the rebuttal documentary. then there was the most infamous of all, the videotape of the family who accused jackson, talking about how wonderful he was, praising him to the hilt, saying he was a father figure and an angel. what was the impact of that tape? because, to me, that was the crux of the prosecution's problem. >> well, i think a lot of people misread the impact of these recordings. first of all, a lot of pro-prosecution journalists, who don't know anything about how to try a case and how to humanize a defendant, were saying the brashear documentary was going to kill him. when i first looked at it, i said wait a second i'm looking at a cute, appealing young kid. a musical sensation and his
7:18 pm
family. there's intoxicating music. they're showing what a childlike, naive person he is. he denies any sexual contact in his bedroom. i was happy it was going to be played. i didn't reveal that. i also was happy it was going to be played because i thought it would allow us to bring in the edited portions from that tape where he denies all the allegations. so that was the most impactful issue involving videotape. in addition, when the family got on there and rather spontaneously all said he's innocent, he never did anything like this, he's a nice person, it had to hurt their credibility and their case. i know the prosecutors said they were forced to do it. but it didn't look that way. and i think all the videotape in that trial helped us immensely. >> do you feel that prosecutors raided neverland, not knowing that that videotape of the family praising michael jackson existed? and then, when they went to the
7:19 pm
videographers home and found that videotape and saw the whole family, that was their witness accusing michael jackson of this, had made this tape, praising him to the hilt and saying nothing untoward happened, that they were boxed into a corner and that's why they turned around and created this bizarre conspiracy case that many people said made no sense, to justify oh, they were forced to make that video? >> well, they created a conspiracy case out of a whole cloth for a lot of reasons. one they thought it would dirty up mr. jackson even more. two, under the law in a conspiracy case an accuser can bring in what is called co-conspirator hearsay. meaning you can bring in out-of-court statements by other people alleged to be conspirators in the conspiracy. normally those statements could not come in. so he did it for that purpose, as well. but i think in general, they thought that if they made mr. jackson look like an overall criminal, a bad person who would extort kids, imprison a family, do all sorts of nefarious things it would help them get a conviction and it backfired. >> were you ever doubtful of
7:20 pm
victory in this case? when this case started many people believed it was an open and shut case against michael jackson. that they had him. and you walked in there, and i was really impressed by your incredible confidence and you proceeded to win. was it ever for show or did you always believe you're going to win this case? >> when i got into the case, close friends of mine were saying don't take it. it's unwinnable. the rest of your life anywhere you go in the world you'll be known as the guy who lost the jackson case. but that's not the way i conduct my life. and i got into the case and i looked at the evidence objectively, i got to know the client and i said to myself, wait a second, a lot of things are wrong with their case. i think they're, you know, i think they're intoxicated by all the media, and everybody telling them they can't lose. they being the prosecution. and i thought i could turn that to our advantage and i'll tell you, i've never had as many good days as a defense attorney in any case as i had in this one. >> tom, we've got to leave it right there. but if i'm ever in trouble, i'm calling you. that's one thing i want to say. thank you so much, please come back soon.
7:21 pm
>> thanks for having me. >> christmastime, 2002, a beautiful woman was killed. and soon, the suburban murder gripped the entire nation. husband scott peterson was later found guilty. but first, he became a pseudocelebrity. i'll have all the details. plus the case that started it all, o.j. simpson's double murder trial. i'll analyze how the justice system is still reeling from that.
7:22 pm
7:23 pm
7:24 pm
7:25 pm
7:26 pm
7:27 pm
7:28 pm
7:29 pm
7:30 pm
an "issues special presentation," cases that changed america. i'll examine high-profile trials that for better or for worse forever altered america's justice system. scott peterson killed his pregnant wife, but before his 2004 conviction, he became a pseudocelebrity. i'll find out how a horrific crime in anytown usa can grip the entire nation. and we'll look at the fallout from o.j. simpson's double murder trial. that case ushered in the era of legal television and dream team attorneys. and as dna evidence made its bigtime debut, americans learned just how flawed our justice system was and still is. there are probably very few people who don't know the name scott peterson.
7:31 pm
why? because he murdered his pregnant wife, laci. the investigation and trial that followed made him a pop culture phenomenon. scott and laci peterson were an attractive young couple expecting their first child. then on december 24th, 2002, scott reported his pregnant wife missing. he pleaded for her safe return. but then inconsistencies surfaced in his story. peterson's bizarre behavior brought suspicion on himself. he reportedly told a mistress, a single mom named amber frey that he had lost his wife and would be spending christmas alone. trouble is he said that 15 days before laci disappeared. scott peterson was arrested, tried and convicted of the murder of his wife laci, and their unborn son conner. he has been on death row since 2006. now to my panel, diane dimond, journalist, columnist and author of "be careful who you love." dr. judy, clinical psychologist. lisa bloom, an anchor on the legal network, in session and
7:32 pm
vinny politan, former prosecutor, now a host with sirius xm radio. dr. judy it all started with the menendez brothers. but didn't the scott peterson case cement the notion of handsome defendant as some sort of celebrity? >> absolutely. and he became the poster boy for horror and betrayal on many people's parts. every young woman coed who meets a guy in college like laci did with scott, what do they want to dream that this guy they marry is going to end up murdering them and their unborn child? that's number one. a mistress, an innocent like amber frey who gets involved in a love affair and sex with a guy who dupes her into thinking that he's single. how many times has this happened to real women who have a horror about that? and on top of that the third group, jane, are the parents who stand up for their child, saying, he didn't do it, he's innocent, and then guess what,
7:33 pm
he gets convicted. so on all those grounds, he becomes the poster boy, psychologically and legally for the horror. >> amber frey was scott peterson's girlfriend at the time his wife laci went missing. frey never knew he was married. and later became a key witness for the prosecution. her secretly recorded conversations with peterson were the centerpiece of the trial. let's listen. >> lisa bloom, i know your mom gloria allred represented amber frey. she was quite heroic. i mean here was an innocent tossed into the center of this storm, and she ended up really helping to nail this guy by having the courage to do those secretly recorded phone
7:34 pm
conversations. >> she really did. at the time laci was missing and people suspected scott was the murderer, amber, at personal risk to herself and her young child, wore a wire and over a period of weeks, basically interrogated scott without any help from the police and got the crucial tapes that ended up convicting him. i met amber frey. she's a lovely woman. and you know what she's doing now? she runs a spa. >> interesting. i'm glad she's doing well. it was former president bush who signed the law making it a separate crime to kill or harm an unborn child during an assault on the mother. it became known as laci and conner's law, after laci peterson and her unborn son. now listen to what laci's mom said on cnn's "larry king live" about that. >> it was important to me, because the state of california
7:35 pm
already has this law, which basically is that if a woman is killed, or a baby is killed in the process of a crime, that it is a double homicide, or they can be held responsible for the homicide of the baby also. many states do not have it. and this bill itself was a federal bill. so that if this happened on -- in federal property, it could be tried as a double homicide. >> it was a heart-wrenching case, having to hear testimony about fetuses washing up, gruesome stuff. setting politics aside, laci peterson's murder helped usher in a law. vinnie, is it changing how we define murder? >> it could be. this case and the double murder aspect of it was there from the beginning. when you look at this case, that may have been the motivation for scott peterson as well. this is a guy living the life. he's got a girlfriend, a beautiful wife. if a child now comes into his life all that is down the drain. his life changes forever once he becomes a father. and looking at the case and looking at scott peterson and what happened here. that may very well have been the motivation for this murder, to
7:36 pm
not bring a child into the world. and now all of a sudden he can live that life that he thought he was going to live. >> diane dimond, indeed, this was a case where we all became armchair psychologists analyzing why he would want to do something like this. and it was revealed that although he had initially said he wanted children, at some point he changed his mind and said he didn't want to have children anymore. this was really the first true psycho babble case? >> oh, yeah. boy, what a big surprise. a real handsome guy with a mistress on the side suddenly changes his mind about wanting children. you know, i am the mother of a daughter. i have grandchildren, actually, and i look at this guy, and i watched that case, thinking to myself, what would i have done, how would i have behaved if i had been in that courtroom and been laci peterson -- laci's mother? i don't think i could have handled what she handled, and i think the whole idea of getting counseling for jurors and witnesses and parents in cases like this is a great one. >> and reporters and journalists, too. >> yeah. >> sometimes, exactly. >> believe it or not, yeah.
7:37 pm
i definitely need therapy after covering some of these cases. but, what's fascinating is i think it also, lisa, ushered in the era as the mother of the mother as sort of a champion for her dead child. who could ever for get sharon rocha during the victim impact statement saying divorce is always an option. >> and the jurors when they came back with their death penalty decision, sentencing scott peterson to death, they all turned as they walked in and looked at who, sharon rocha in the courtroom. because they identified with her. she was a rock. she was a pillar of strength during this trial standing up for her daughter and her dead grandchild, as well. grandson. i think absolutely she pointed out how important it is for a victim to go to trial, as painful as it is and to look the jurors in the eye. >> dr. judy, the sad fact is that a leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder at the hands of the man who impregnated them. >> exactly. and this is one of the biggest
7:38 pm
horrors of this entire case. is to think that, in fact, there are men, as you said earlier, who don't want to have children. who end up then murdering them. and also, by the way, other cases where there are women who don't want to have children. and this is one of the biggest horrors to think that a mother or a father can kill a child. that there are patricides, matricides, infanticides, and all of this gets to the guts and the horror of everybody who is watching, who is thinking, and who is fearing that such a thing could happen. >> yeah, are you living with the enemy? dr. judy, thank you so much. the rest of my panel will be joining me to talk about the trial to end all trials. the o.j. simpson murder trial. almost 15 years later. and our justice system is still dealing with the fallout. you don't want to miss this.
7:39 pm
7:40 pm
7:41 pm
7:42 pm
we the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant orenthal james simpson not guilty of the crime of murder in violation of penal code 167-a a felony upon nicole brown simpson. >> 140 million people watched in shock as the verdict in the o.j. simpson murder trial was read, almost 15 years ago. some cheered, many were outraged. simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife nicole brown and her friend ron goldman. the trial forced a national debate about race and celebrity. it ushered in the era of legal television. and round the clock trial watchers, including my panel, diane dimond, journalist, syndicated columnist and author of "be careful who you love." lisa bloom an anchor on the legal network in session. vinny politan, former prosecutor and i am delighted to welcome a
7:43 pm
very special guest, vincent bugliosi, a former l.a. county prosecutor and author of "outrage, the five reasons o.j. simpson got away with murder." vince, so thrilled to have you here. i'm a huge fan of all your books. what is your single strongest argument as to why o.j. was found not guilty? >> oh, i think i pointed out in "outrage" the majority of people thought it was the jury. and the jury was a major, big-time no question about it. when i came out with "outrage" i pointed out that the prosecution was even worse. mind-boggling, tremendously unprepared. they didn't know how to try a case. and i gave example after example of the staggering incompetence of the d.a.'s office here. and you know, i'm pro-prosecution. but i was asked to write the book, and either i state the facts, or i don't. i don't write the book. so it was primarily lost because of the incompetence of the
7:44 pm
prosecutor, and i'm not boasting at all. but before "outrage" the general belief was that this case was lost because of the black jury. and actually it wasn't a black jury. only nine were block. predominantly black. now after "outrage" came out and this is a fact, the general consensus is that the defense does not win the case, the prosecution lost the case. it was primarily because of the prosecution. >> yeah, i agree with you. and when i read your book it was like boom, boom, boom, boom, it all made sense. the most infamous celebrity trial of them all came crashing into our lives june 17th, 1994. with the televised broadcast of that slow-speed bronco chase. you got to remember that, folks. 95 million people watched o.j. simpson take flight on the freeways of los angeles. simpson was supposed to turn himself in that morning to face charges for double homicide of his ex-wife and her friend. media waited for simpson at the police station. when he failed to appear, hysteria took over. thousands went to overpasses. millions watched on tv. now, vinny politan, was this the birth of criminal cases as sheer entertainment?
7:45 pm
>> well, you know what it was, a couple things. obviously there's the entertainment part of it because we're watching it on television and we're able to see what happens. what it also is, hey, you know what? everybody in this country gets a fair trial. gets a fair shake. because before he went to court and went to trial and those 12 jurors made a decision, everybody was presuming, presuming he was going to be convicted and it didn't happen. the entertainment aspect of it, you know what happened in this case? and people say it was almost a death of cameras in the courtroom because of what it exposed. but what it really taught us is that different judges run their courtrooms in much different ways. in my experience covering courtrooms i've never seen anyone control or not control a courtroom like judge ito. and i think that's what it really exposed to all of us. >> i'll tell you, i think who controlled the courtroom was johnnie cochran, the ringmaster of the trial of the century. his theatrics captivated the viewing public.
7:46 pm
take a listen. >> put this cap on, and you haven't seen me for a year. i put this knit cap on, who am i? i'm still johnnie cochran with a knit cap. but if you look at o.j. simpson over there, and he has a rather large head, o.j. simpson in a knit cap from two blocks away, is still o.j. simpson. it's no disguise. it's no disguise. it makes no sense. it doesn't fit. if it doesn't fit, you must acquit. >> if it doesn't fit, you must acquit. diane dimond, johnnie cochran walked away with this case. he really used this poetic expression to describe that memorable stunt where he managed to get prosecutors to -- look at this. to let o.j. put on the glove. and this is what vincent
7:47 pm
bugliosi referred to in his book. why the heck did the prosecution allow that to happen? with the rubber gloves underneath. >> the judge allowed it to happen. but i completely agree with my old friend vince that it was the prosecution. i mean how many days did they spend on dna and they never even really fully explained it. but let me tell you something, you ask at the top of this, how has this changed our justice system? i speak to law school students, just did it at nyu, or new york law, just two days ago, and do you know as part of their curriculum, they are taught how to be television pundits. they are taught how to conduct a news conference. they are taught -- >> don't teach them that. >> wait a minute. they are taught how to come up with those great little phrases like, if it doesn't fit, you must acquit. so, we may be looking at a whole new generation of grandstanding criminal defense attorneys. because of the o.j. simpson trial 15 years ago. >> all right. we have to get to this other huge issue, what we saw of the simpson murder trial was groundbreaking. a legal strategy where side issues were turned into central issues. we all remember lapd detective mark fuhrman. the defense alleged fuhrman planted evidence at the crime
7:48 pm
scene. they introduced the incendiary "n" word, audiotape where he used the word 41 times. this became the cornerstone of the defense's case, lisa. and the evidence sort of fell to the side. >> well, i didn't think that was a side issue. i thought it was the best issue the defense had. i thought it was repulsive that mark fuhrman was on the lapd. that he admitted on a videotape 60 something times that he used the "n" word over and over again. that he falsely charged black drivers when they're driving with a white passenger. and somehow he made a career as a tv pundit now notwithstanding his perjury conviction. most of us don't have any perjury convictions. i guess some of those law students are going to be competing against mark fuhrman now. >> convictions, lisa, no, no convictions over here. >> i want to go back to vincent bugliosi. what i really felt was most fascinating about your book is how the prosecution, you outline how the whole idea that the police department got together after this happened, and immediately, within a couple of
7:49 pm
minutes, decided to do this vast conspiracy, which would have required tremendous planning, and the prosecution never really broke down how idiotic and nonsensical the whole planting of evidence theory was. >> well, not only didn't they break it down. but in their entire opening argument they didn't even talk about it. and in their final summation they only addressed about a couple pages to it. so they basically ignored the key issue at the trial. jane, i thought that this, in all deference to you, i thought this was about how the simpson case changed america. i guess i was wrong on that. but your producer asked me to respond to that question, did it change america. >> well, go for it. go for it, sir. >> well, it's an anatomy of the simpson trial, which is fine if you want to do that. >> but i think that we're analyzing how it changed america in the sense that if you look at a slow-speed chase, for example, it's never happened before or since, that that did change america in terms of entertainment. it becomes an entertainment. but you obviously have something you want to say in terms of how it changed america. so go for it. >> as far as entertainment,
7:50 pm
there had been cameras in the courtroom before this. and there continue to be cameras in the courtroom. cameras do not belong in the courtroom. solemn proceeding th determines whether a person's liberty and sometimes his very life is taken away from him. and anything that interferes or has the potential of interfering should be prohibited. but it didn't change after the simpson case. judges still wanted to see their mug on tv, still televise trials. but as far as change in america, i don't want to rain on the them of the show, jane, but i don't think that the simpson case changed america, although there was a time right after the environment when many people thought that it did. it's no secret that the majority of white americans -- i'm sorry? >> sir, hold tight. we're going to get back to more of this. outrageous o.j. trial, coverage and analysis. we'll be back.
7:51 pm
>> we the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant not guilty of murder.
7:52 pm
7:53 pm
7:54 pm
7:55 pm
7:56 pm
7:57 pm
7:58 pm
7:59 pm

American Politics
CSPAN November 8, 2009 6:30pm-8:00pm EST

News/Business. The day's top public-policy events.

TOPIC FREQUENCY Jackson 20, Michael Jackson 20, America 15, Scott Peterson 10, O.j. Simpson 7, Us 7, Diane Dimond 6, Lisa 4, Chris Brown 4, California 4, Laci Peterson 4, Vinny Politan 3, Amber Frey 3, Rihanna 3, Ellis 3, Johnnie Cochran 3, Vincent Bugliosi 3, Jane 3, Heather 3, Dr. Judy 3
Network CSPAN
Duration 01:30:00
Video Codec mpeg2video
Audio Cocec ac3
Pixel width 528
Pixel height 480
Sponsor Internet Archive
Audio/Visual sound, color

disc Borrow a DVD of this show
info Stream Only
Uploaded by
TV Archive
on 11/8/2009